By Warren Patch
Ocean Beach has always been a colorful place. The Hippies seem to perpetually reinvent themselves there; long hair, short hair, dread hair, dirty hair, blue hair, no hair, it’s all cool. And tie-dye is still vogue. I buy mine at Sunshine Daydreams on Newport Avenue.
One of the all-time great characters of OB was Clint Carey, alias OB SPACEMAN. He used to sell plots of land on the moon. And he was the only OB’cean who had personally met the “Outer Space People” when they came visiting, and he alone was authorized to sell tickets for spaceship rides when they returned. I hear that people are still holding onto their tickets—just in case. In his latter days, as an old alcoholic, suffering from terminal diabetes, wheelchair-bound and blind, he sold little psychedelic paintings that he made on 3X5 heavy card stock. I still keep my SPACEMAN painting.
The first high school surfing contest that I ever entered was at Ocean Beach. It was a cold, gray morning and I was bundled up in my beach towel, shivering on the beach, when I heard Doug Smith, the man on the microphone, interrupt the contest to proclaim, “Hey everybody! Here comes OB Spaceman! Hey OB! Why don’t you come over here and say ‘Hello’ to the crowd?”
Being an inlander, I had never heard of OB Spaceman. But when I looked up, I saw a sixty-something-year-old man in long gray hair and goatee, with a big cartoon grin on his face, swaggering up the beach wearing Captain America red-white-and-blue bellbottom pants, throwing double peace signs to the crowd. (This was back when “Tricky Dick” was in office.) In a raspy, early-morning alcoholic’s voice, he croaked through the microphone:
Hey everybody! I’m glad to be here. I just got outta’ da hospital. See, last Sunday night I was riding my Harley on the OB Pier. And I was going so fast that I crashed through the railing at the end. When I hit the water the waves were so hot ‘n glassy that I got third degree burns all over my whole body. And they had to pick the glass outta’ my eyes!
For a moment I forgot all about the cold of the morning as I giggled over the old man’s wit.
OB SPACEMAN is now long gone. Yet every time that I see his picture in Hodads, upending a bottle of cheap Gallo wine, above the Illinois license plate— BOOZER—I think back to that morning and smile. That’s OB’s legacy. He made us smile.
Warren Patch is a long-time Ocean Beach chiropractor with his office at the corner of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and Santa Monica.